News / Asia

Reconstruction Continues In Quake-Hit Christchurch

An undated artist impression shows the Christchurch downtown projects planned for a new-look after the New Zealand city was reduced to rubble by an earthquake in 2011, July 30, 2012.
An undated artist impression shows the Christchurch downtown projects planned for a new-look after the New Zealand city was reduced to rubble by an earthquake in 2011, July 30, 2012.
Phil Mercer
New Zealand’s prime minister is predicting that economic growth will accelerate when the rebuilding of the earthquake-damaged city of Christchurch begins in earnest next year. The rate of growth is in large part tied to insurance claims that are now expected to be well in excess of $24 billion. One-hundred eighty-five people died when a violent tremor shook New Zealand’s second biggest city in February 2011.

The wreckage from last year’s magnitude 6.3 earthquake is gradually being cleared in central Christchurch.  Officials say a new, low-rise city eventually will emerge.  Major downtown rebuilding projects are expected to begin next year when much of the demolition work is expected to be completed.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says the city, which lies in one of the world’s most ‘quake-prone' countries, is recovering well.

“We have learned a lot but, in summary, I think the progress has been utterly extraordinary and I am very, very proud of the way my council organization has worked.  I have a lot of respect for the role the government has played and helping us get there," he said. "But my primary respect is for my neighbors, the people of this city. You know, 12,000 earthquakes later, we are still here.  We still are gungho [enthusiastic] about our future and we are in the process of re-imagining and rebuilding and re-creating a place that we love.”     

It is estimated that much of the reconstruction work in central Christchurch will take between five and 10 years to complete.  Quake-hit suburban areas, where thousands of homes were left in ruins, along with roads, bridges and sewage systems, also will take many years to fix.

The city’s 150-year-old Anglican cathedral was badly damaged.  Church officials want to tear it down and replace it.  That could take a decade, so to lift the spirits of a battered city, a 6-storey cardboard cathedral will be erected in time for next Easter.

It is the work of a Japanese designer, Shigeru Ban, and will have seating for 700 people.

“We are two years past the February 22 earthquake, which hit the CBD [central business district]," said Reverend Craig Dixon who is managing the project. "Eighty percent of the CBD is coming down, or is down already, so around Christchurch in the central city you’ve just got massive empty spaces.  So to have a building go up - and to have such an innovative building go up, really does put forward to the city and to the people a sign of hope,” Dixon added.

Dixon describes what the cardboard cathedral will look like when finished.

"It is a massive triangular-shaped building.  As you walk into the height of the roof increases and the building narrows, so it is a really interesting shape as you experience it as you walk into the structure," he said. "But when you look at it from the outside you’ll see a large triangular structure six storeys high.”    

Residents say violent aftershocks that followed the major earthquake in February 2011 have subsided, giving relief to a jittery population.

The city’s Catholic bishop, Barry Jones, says that, although the rebuilding work is progressing well, he worries about the psychological health of the vulnerable.

“Sometimes there is a kind of overemphasis on the positive and sometimes commentators sound gungho and all that kind of stuff, but it is a huge amount of stress and suffering still part of the reality of people’s lives and uncertainty and fear.  A lot of young people are still afraid of earthquakes, a lot of school children.  But the decision makers, no, they seem to be getting on with it,” stated Jones.  

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says that his South Pacific nation’s economic growth will accelerate when the rebuilding of central Christchurch begins.  The reconstruction is largely funded by the government and insurance companies, but Tim Hunter -- who heads the regional tourism authority -- says that attracting some foreign tourists remains a challenge.

“We particularly noticed with Australian travelers that they have stayed away in droves.  They do not like earthquakes; they do not like the look of them.  They do not like what it has done here," Hunter noted. "You know, it is going to take some time before we can get that market to feel safe and secure.” 

Still, there are many signs that Christchurch is determined to bounce back from the traumatic events of 2011.

Shipping containers have been used to create a makeshift shopping mall in the heart of the shattered central business district.  More than 25 stores and cafes have moved in, and have become a beacon of hope and activity.

American tourist Terri, from Maryland, says it is good to see such determination amid the ruins.

“I am surprised that it still so devastated after two years,” he said. "I think this is fantastic actually that people have been resourceful to build and try to restart the community.”

New Zealand experiences about 12,000 earthquakes each year.  Most pass unnoticed, but Christchurch will bear the scars of one of the most serious quakes the country has ever seen for years to come.

You May Like

Kurdish President: More Needed to Defeat Islamic State

In interview with VOA's Persian Service, Massoud Barzani says peshmerga forces have not received weapons, logistical support needed to successfully fight IS in northern Iraq More

Sierra Leone's Stray Dog Population Doubles During Ebola Crisis

Many dog owners fear their pets could infect them with the virus and have abandoned them, leading to the increase and sparking fears of rabies More

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

New methods for mapping pain in the brain not only validate sufferers of chronic pain but might someday also lead to better treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
X
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs